Archaeological dig at Chimney Rock this summer

Archaeologists from around the Four Corners area assembled Friday, March 20, at the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area to lay out the strategy for an archaeological dig being led this summer by Dr. Steve Lekson of the University of Colorado. He will be employing several graduate students from the University, including Brenda Todd, his assistant, who headed up the strategy session.

The archaeologists assembled for the meeting were Jason Chuipka, James Potter, Shanna Diederichs, Gene Wheaton and Brenda Todd. Representing the U.S. Forest Service, San Juan National Forest were Wendy Sutton, Pagosa District archaeologist, Glenn Raby, geologist and Julie Coleman, Heritage Team lead. Julie was instrumental in coordinating all of the grants and getting this project funded. Les Linton and Glenn Commons represented the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA).

This “dig” is significant in many ways, especially the fact that it has been funded through several grant sources and CRIA matching funds.

The goal is to excavate one major room in the Great House Pueblo and one smaller room.

What will they find? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, but it should be interesting.

Work is scheduled to start on or about May 23 just after the tourist season starts, and will last until July 3.

The primary purpose of the excavation is to reduce the dirt level in one room and increase the level in an adjacent room to stabilize the walls. Additional stabilization work on the Great House, to repair the damage done by harsh winter weather, is also scheduled for this summer and next summer.

The work being done this year means that the normal guided tours will not be able to go inside the Great House Pueblo and instead will go up to the fire tower to look down upon the Pueblo and the archaeologists at work. It is possible that CRIA will implement special limited tours that will get close to the actual work, but this will be limited to very few people at a time in order to not interfere with the archaeologist’s work. Check with the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association after their season opens on May 15 by calling the cabin at (970) 883-5359. This number will not be active until they open for the season.

For additional information about Chimney Rock Archaeological Area and the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, go to the Web site:

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) new volunteer training sessions will be held on May 1 and 2 at the Parish Hall. To learn more about becoming a CRIA volunteer, contact Cher Logsdon at 731-1237 or call the CRIA office at 264-2287.

Photo courtesy Glenn Commons
There is more to the question of how to do an archaeological excavation than meets the eye —like where do you start and where do you put the dirt? Standing on the room to be excavated at Chimney Rock and discussing the logistics of the dig are, from left to right, Jason Chuipka, James Potter, Les Linton, Brenda Todd, Julie Coleman, Shanna Diederichs and Glenn Raby.